It’s no secret that 2023 is set to be a challenging year for retail. The effects of the ongoing cost-of-living crisis are having a direct impact on consumer spending power, with Deloitte’s latest consumer tracker indicating that 39% of respondents are now spending less on clothes and shoes, says Alan Galloway, Head of Sports & Leisure at Associated Independent Stores (AIS).
In order to combat this, first and foremost, keeping upon the pulse of current industry trends will be key to driving sales. As part of AIS’ ongoing commitment to provide cutting-edge insight to its members, we work closely with trendspotting agencies to track consumer spending and highlight themes as they arise.
During the pandemic, we saw a shift towards outdoor exercise as the population strived to remain active while gyms were closed, with a 65% increase in running and jogging activities. Many have chosen to maintain this habit post-pandemic, resulting in a thriving market for sports retailers. As such, keeping ample stock of the latest running shoes and clothes will prove a valuable revenue stream even while wider consumer spending dips.
This also extends to outdoor swimming as well as running, with many more choosing to brave the elements – here, dry robes are an essential, especially during the colder months of the year. In a more general sense, the importance of effective recovery is also being increasingly recognised, meaning massage guns are very much the must-have gadget of the moment for any budding athlete.
On this topic, one of the questions I am most frequently asked is regarding retailers who are looking to introduce sports and leisure apparel into their offering – namely, where should they start? Keeping in touch with the aforementioned trends will prove key to garnering business in an unexplored market, alongside stocking the evergreen products that will continue to sell well year on year, such as running shoes and football boots.
Besides this, it’s important to understand the wants and needs of the local community, such as what the local sporting interests are, and what the current standard of competition is – both from bricks-and-mortar locations to the UK’s online offering. That said, there will always be a place for specialist independent sports stores and departments. The key is to be authentic, innovative and offer a genuine connection with customers.
Moreover, retail sales data from the Office for National Statistics reveals that the online channel seems to have been hit the hardest, suggesting that in-person engagement may prove to be the key to navigating the spending slump. This chimes with our own observations, as we are seeing more and more members turn towards INDX Shows for business support in 2022 – a trend which we expect to continue into next calendar year.
Post-pandemic, the value of doing business face-to-face simply cannot be understated. The online medium, for all its benefits, is guilty of often inducing ‘death by information’ – the virtually unlimited selection of products can often make it difficult to even know where to start looking, let alone strike a successful deal. The INDX offering, on the other hand, is curated by buyers for buyers, showcasing a focused selection of trend-driven products, while also offering members-only exclusives and discounts.
Trade shows also present a great opportunity for networking, whether for establishing business relationships, gaining insight or something else entirely. For instance, members of the Running Industry Alliance are set to attend INDX Sports & Leisure 2022, and are well-placed to discuss the current trends and challenges facing the sector today.
Outside of the trade show landscape, a community-driven approach can prove an effective method of attracting and retaining customers. One of our members, for instance, has cultivated a reputation as a specialist running store, regularly hosting events to engage with the local community and build up a loyal customer base. The business is now much more than an outlet, but a hub for local athletes, which will continue to pay dividends down the line.